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Computer Misuse Act


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You need to be familiar with the following ideas about data [data: information without context, eg a list of students with numbers beside their names is data, when it's made clear that those numbers represent their placing in a 100 metre race, the data becomes information ] and computer misuse: that data stored electronically is easier to misuse; that software [software: a general term used to describe an application or a program ] should not be copied without permission; the consequences of software piracy [piracy: acquiring, profiting from, using or making changes to copyrighted material without prior permission ]; that hacking can lead to corruption of data, either accidentally or on purpose.

Types of computer misuse

Misuse of computers and communications systems comes in several forms:


Hacking is where an unauthorised person uses a network [network: a group of interconnected computers ], Internet or modem [modem: a piece of hardware that connects a computer to the Internet ] connection to gain access past security passwords or other security to see data stored on another computer. Hackers sometimes use software hacking tools and often target, for example, particular sites on the Internet.

Data misuse and unauthorised transfer or copying

Copying and illegal transfer of data is very quick and easy using online computers and large storage devices such as hard disks [hard disk: a device used to store vast amounts of data, the data is stored on a disk ], memory sticks [memory stick: a thumb-sized portable storage device used primarily for transferring files between computers ] and DVDs [Digital Versatile Disc (DVD): used to store data, eg a movie ]. Personal data, company research and written work, such as novels and textbooks, cannot be copied without the copyright holder's permission.

Copying and distributing copyrighted software, music and film

This includes copying music and movies with computer equipment and distributing it on the Internet without the copyright [copyright: gives the creator of an original piece of work control over its publication, distribution and adaptation ] holder's permission. This is a widespread misuse of both computers and the Internet that breaks copyright regulations.

Email and chat room abuses

Internet services such as chat rooms [chat room: accessed on the Internet, users can meet to chat in real-time, messages are typed out but voice chat rooms exist too ] and email [email: electronic mail - a message written or typed on a computer and sent electronically rather than by post ] have been the subject of many well-publicised cases of impersonation and deception where people who are online pretend to have a different identity. Chat rooms have been used to spread rumours about well known personalities. A growing area of abuse of the Internet is email spam, where millions of emails are sent to advertise both legal and illegal products and services.


A lot of indecent material and pornography is available through the Internet and can be stored in electronic form. There have been several cases of material, which is classified as illegal, or which shows illegal acts, being found stored on computers followed by prosecutions for possession of the material.

Identity and financial abuses

This topic includes misuse of stolen or fictional credit card numbers to obtain goods or services on the Internet, and use of computers in financial frauds. These can range from complex well thought out deceptions to simple uses such as printing counterfeit money with colour printers.


Virusesvirus: ultramicroscopic non-cellular organism that replicates itself inside the cells of living hosts are relatively simple programs [program: a list of instructions written in a programming language ] written by people and designed to cause nuisance or damage to computers or their files.


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